Women, Food, and Body Image

family photo pose idea
Image via Jennifer Liv Photography

 

We’re rushing in the way that I hate. All five of us sharing one space, but not in the good way.

Brody squeezes his foot into a tiny blue, white-trimmed sneaker that I love. He loved it, too, two weeks ago when we bought it together. “This one!” he said then, beneath neon lights that scream mall and between shelves filled with the brightest of little boy shoes in shades of Super Hero that (to me) scream not my world.

But today the sneaker feels, “Too tight,” and, “Not his favorite.” “Just put it on,” is the best answer I can come up with.

I straighten my daughter’s hair, pulling her auburn strands through the heat, noting their glitter, their shine. “I don’t like this skirt,” she says, almost glaring at me. Her tone is new-ish, and disheartening.

Someone once told me to not take parenting too personally. I’m finding this hard today.

Years of wondering and questioning how I look tell me to hide until I feel the most ready to be seen.

I meet Jason’s eyes in the mirror. He leans against the wall, one foot crossed over the other. His stance is easy, his smile echoes the feeling.

Moments later, I send everyone downstairs. Jason’s eyes flicker over the clock, noting that we're only we’re minutes from needing to leave. We’re taking our family photos today; a “fun” tradition that somehow feels like too much on a Friday afternoon.

“I know,” I answer his unasked question. “I’ll hurry.”

I like to get ready alone. Years of wondering and questioning how I look tell me to hide until I feel the most ready to be seen.

I, too, picked out my outfit weeks ago. I chose the boots and the jewelry and even the lipstick to match. Planning is the best armor to insecurity.

I turn this way and that in the mirror, smooth my dress over my hips. Sighing, I wonder who I can glare at for what I don’t like.

Finally, when the clock turns to a number that I can no longer ignore and I imagine my husband tapping his imaginary watch in reminder, I turn away from that mirror and head downstairs.

I don’t hear a single compliment that comes my way. Later, my husband will remind me of the whistles (he’s such a keeper) and the words – pretty, love, wow – that my family, the closest-to-my-heart mirrors I’ll ever have, offered me.

But here’s the dirty little secret that some of us know all too well: Once you’ve had an issue with food, you always will. It will never be your friend.

Instead of letting them in, I ushered them out again — this time to the car — staying back to make snacks. As I slice apples and pour almonds, my instincts are to have a “snack” of my own. To fill my mouth and numb my feelings with food.

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And later that evening — after pictures go well and we’re warming in the car shoulder to shoulder, filling the space between the seats with our laughter and words and noise, this time sharing space in the good way – my response is (not surprisingly to me) the same: “Let’s go out to dinner!”

Food is my go-to when I feel anything. It’s a stress reliever and a sadness numb-er, an anger replacement and a celebration of happiness, joy, and pride. This is a learned behavior from things that do, indeed, matter but are no longer my present or my focus.

These last few years I’ve revamped how, what, and when I eat. I eat for fuel. I exercise. I avoid carbs and crave protein. I love cooking and pick fresh ingredients carefully.

But left to my own devices, without the armor of mindfulness and planning, I just want to eat.

When I sat down to write this article about women and food, I was tasked with finding the positives, the how-tos in having a good relationship with food.

Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better. – Maya Angelou

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But here’s the dirty little secret that some of us know all too well: Once you’ve had an issue with food, you always will. It will never be your friend.

So I truly only have one tip for doing better, and it comes from Maya Angelou. “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” 

And while on your path to do “better,” which really, we're all on, here's the only thing you need to know: There's nothing wrong with you, your path, or your today. This is your best today and tomorrow will, for sure, be better.

What do you think?

Women, Food, and Body Image

Galit Breen is the bestselling author of Kindness Wins, a simple guide to teaching your child to be kind online; the TEDx Talk, “Raising a digital kid without having been one”; the online course Raise Your Digital Kid™; and the Facebook group The Savvy Parents Club. She believes you can get your child a phone and still create a grass-beneath-their-bare-feet childhood for them. Galit’s writing has been featured on The Huffington Post; The Washington Post; Buzzfeed; TIME; and more. She liv ... More

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3 comments

  1. Jenna says:

    You nail this so perfectly and reading it, my heart is in my mouth (luckily, not food at the moment!) Because I share so many of the thoughts you write about here, and after a lifetime of disordered eating, am still struggling. What you do, very courageously, here, is so important. Not solving it for us, but letting us know that like you, we all have demons. And at least we can talk about them.

  2. ralynn says:

    As much as I love food its hard for me to not indulge so instead of giving up all my favorite foods I just make smaller portions and exercise more.

  3. Nat says:

    another tip would be not to beat yourself up with guilt for doing something you know you should not, and then don’t go on to justify another no-no because you have already screwed up today anyway.

    Give yourself permission to enjoy food, to love the sensation of ice cream melting on your tongue, to indulge in that chocolate craving to the fulness you can, hide from the kids under the covers and truly enjoy a quiet moment all about fulfilling your needs! A rushed guilty treat never ends up feel like a treat. Make the choice to treat yourself and then do it!

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